No confessions, no photos of accused, court tells media

New Delhi: Police should avoid giving their opinion on the guilt of the accused, the Delhi High Court said Monday, while suggesting amendments to the new guidelines for crime reporting formulated by the Delhi Police for thenselves and the media.

A division bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw suggested that no confessional statement should be made public before the investigating agency files charge sheet in the court.

“We want that rights of the accused should be protected,” the court told the state counsel while asking them to amend and submit the guidelines by Wednesday.

The court also suggested that the police should not pose the accused persons before the cameras after press conferences and avoid presenting fabricated facts.

On the last date of hearing, (SG) Gopal Subramaniam submitted the guidelines and said: “Maintaining transparency and accountability is our topmost priority, and on the same hand the citizens’ right to know about a thing should not be withheld.”

Citing the model of London’s Metropolitan Police, the solicitor general said: “Only that information which is in public interest should be dispersed to media.”

According to the new guidelines, only senior officers of the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) and above will interact with the media.

“Only designated officers will disseminate information to the media on major crimes. Information regarding the identity of juveniles and the victim of rape should not be disclosed,” the solicitor general said.

The court was hearing an NGO’s public interest petition for action against police officials for allegedly leaking to the media confessional statements of suspected terrorists in the Batla House shoot-out case. Two terrorists and a police inspector were killed in that shoot-out Sep 19, 2008.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the NGO, said: “Any information given by police to the media during the course of the investigation should be banned and should amount to defamation and contempt (of the court).”

“Protection of the victim’s identity is in great danger and this practice by the media should be stopped immediately,” the court had said earlier.

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